I’d like you to meet my two veteran husbands. You’ve met them perhaps through glimpses in some of my former posts but today in honor of Veterans’ Day I’ll tell briefly of the roles they played as veterans.
First, Lt. Col. Wallace Ginder Wethe USMC.
Wally hadn’t intended to join the military but, like most young men at the approach of WW2, he would soon be drafted if he did not enlist. A college buddy said to him, “Want to go with me while I sign up?” Wally said, “Sure.” He thought it would be interesting to see how it was done but he had no idea that he, himself, would be enlisting that day. The enlisting officer said, "Here are the papers. Just fill them out and we'll tell you what to do next." OK, I'll take the exam and see what it will be like when I get around to it, he thought, but when he'd finished going through with his friend he heard the words, “You’re in!” He could hardly believe he’d actually enlisted! On that crucial day he was set to become a Navy cadet in flight school while his last year of college would have to wait.
From the Navy he was transferred to the Marine Corps where he went through officers’ training, then completed flight school and became a fighter pilot. “I’d never aspired to be a pilot like a lot of young guys did,” he said later. “My idea was to be a journalist or maybe the tympani player in a symphony orchestra, but I grew to love flying for the Marines, and when I was offered a commission to stay for a full twenty years or more after making Major, I took it."
Soon after enlistment came Pearl Harbor and Wally was sent to the South Pacific and Henderson Field at Guadalcanal. He flew the Grumman Wildcat fighter plane and took down five enemy Zeros. The fifth one he had to share credit for with another pilot, thus missing the title of “Ace” by one-half, but he earned the high regard of his fellows and senior officers. Later he flew the Corsair and then the F8. Other than some shrapnel which he carried in his right shoulder all his life and the traces of a bout with malaria he came home without injury.
I can’t do justice to Wally’s career but he fought and commanded a base in Korea during that war also. He spent five months on a cruise to Liberia to represent the Navy at the 100th anniversary of that nation. And he also served with the Marines on a fourteen month tour in Japan. Maybe our son, Wally K. Wethe can fill in a bit with a comment. He has his dad’s ribbons to show the family.
When I married Dr. Forbes Smith Robertson PhD twelve years after becoming a widow I learned about his contribution to WW2 too. He never told me how it was that he did not get drafted into military service during WW2 and I didn’t ask, but I gathered that Uncle Sam found him equally valuable as one of the main team of geographic survey personnel that was sent to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic to discover sources of bauxite. It was a tour of separation from his family too and a highly successful mission in providing the sources for that much needed material to build airplanes during WW2. So, I think “Robby,” as I called him, deserves to be given much credit for his contribution to the war. I’d call him a veteran.
My other two veterans are my two sons, Wally K. and David. Both enlisted during the Vietnamese War. Wally K. became a flyer for the US Air Force. He stayed in for over 27 years and missed going into combat because of the war's end. I can't relate all the tours he had, but he served admirably and achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel. David became an officer in the Navy but got out of the service in about a year when the military was paring down after the war. They are here to tell their own stories so I won't try but I am proud of both my sons on this Veterans' Day!